Little League groups in Bald Eagle school district to merge

Tri-County's Cole Burkett celebrates a single during the Little League District 5 Championship game against the State College Nationals on Thursday, July 11, 2013.
Tri-County's Cole Burkett celebrates a single during the Little League District 5 Championship game against the State College Nationals on Thursday, July 11, 2013. CDT photo

Four Little League organizations are joining forces in communities across the Bald Eagle Area School District.

Youngsters in the Howard, Mountaintop, Milesburg and Julian-Port Matilda areas will play under one banner this year, Gary Heverly of the Milesburg league said Sunday.

The Julian-Port Matilda region had been part of the Tri-County League, which has disbanded. Howard and Milesburg have been playing together for several years.

Mountaintop Little League officials voted Sunday to join with the other regions.

Heverly said a new name will be found for the consolidated league, with some leaning toward calling the organization “Bald Eagle Area Youth Baseball.”

There will be one inclusive charter for Little League’s official records, and each former league will maintain its own association for field and concession purposes, he said.

Scheduling details are in the works.

“The whole goal is to have teams in each of our areas,” Heverly said. “We will actually have teams at every level in those areas, which should make people happy.”

Heverly said early sign-up numbers show a new BEA league with:

•  Five teams for players 11 and 12 years old (two in Milesburg, one each in Howard, Mountaintop and Julian-Port).

•  Five teams for players 9 and 10 years old (two in Milesburg and Mountaintop, one in Julian-Port).

•  Eight or nine teams for players 7 and 8 years old, with at least two in each region.

•  Tee-ball teams in each community.

The shuffling follows a rule change for Little League out of Williamsport that allows players to participate in any league within a school district’s boundaries.

That change and dropping participation levels led to the Tri-County break-up, with Halfmoon Township joining with State College and teams in the towns of Warriors Mark (Huntingdon County) and Bald Eagle (Blair County) playing in the Tyrone league.

That left Port Matilda and Julian youth baseball leaders scrambling to figure out their next move.

Zack Foltz, a Little League parent in Julian, believes the consolidated organization in the Bald Eagle school district will provide the best option for young players.

“This benefits the kids a great deal,” Foltz said. “Now, kids in this area will be playing ball with the same kids right up through, all the way to JV and varsity.”

Port Matilda and Julian were already in the Milesburg association for Teener League, ages 13-15.

Foltz said fields will be used in both Port Matilda and Julian, and at Ardrey Hollow near the base of Skytop Mountain.

“I think it’s exciting,” Foltz said. “People generally don’t like change. But I truly think this change is for the better for the kids in Port Matilda and Julian.”

Heverly is looking forward to having all-star teams formed from across the school district at all age levels.

He said there is talk of having the new BEA league play inter-league games with a neighboring association, perhaps Bellefonte, State College or the new Nittany Valley League formed by the merger of Marion Walker and Pleasant Gap.

“When their league broke up, it hurt the Port and Julian people more than anyone,” Heverly said. “But with those two and Mountaintop coming together, it should be a real nice mix.”

Follow Chip Minemyer on Twitter @MinemyerChip.